UK Ministry of Defence apologises over Iraqi boy's drowning

UK Ministry of Defence apologises over Iraqi boy's drowning
The actions of British troops led to the death of 15-year-old Ali Ahmed, who drowned after soldiers forced him into a canal as punishment for looting.
2 min read
16 September, 2016
Inquiry finds UK soldiers’ actions were 'plain and certain' cause of 15-year-old's death [Getty]

The UK's Ministry of Defence has apologised after an Iraqi boy died in Basra canal at the hands of British troops.

An inquiry has found UK soldiers' actions were the "plain and certain" cause of 15-year-old Ahmed Jabaar Kareem Ali's death in the Shatt al-Basra in May 2003.

The Iraq Fatality Investigations report said Ali was "aggressively manhandled and assaulted" after soldiers arrested him on suspicion of looting and took him to the waterway in an armoured vehicle.

Former high court judge Sir George Newman said: "His death could have been avoided because he could and should have been rescued after it became clear that he was floundering."


Ali was arrested on May 8, 2003, along with three other suspected looters. All four were taken to the canal by British soldiers, who forced them in for a "soaking".

Despite the four soldiers at the canal-side realising the child had got into difficulty, there was no attempt to rescue him, Sir George said, and his death "could and should have been avoided".

"It was a clumsy, ill-directed and bullying piece of conduct, engaged in without consideration of the risk of harm to which it could give rise and, in the event which occurred, there was a manifest failure to take action to save the life of Mr Ali," he added.

"I have little doubt that [the soldiers] knew the looters were terrified for their lives and in all probability they had contributed to that fear by aggressive manhandling and coercive pushing and assaults."

Sir George added British troops were not trained in policing methods to deal with looting, which began within hours of the collapse of the Iraqi army following the invasion and occupation of Basra more than 13 years ago.

Read also: Basra's bitter memories of British occupation

The soldiers were tried for manslaughter in a British court and acquitted in 2006.

Responding to the report, an MoD spokesman said on Friday: "This was a grave incident for which we are extremely sorry.

"We are committed to investigating allegations of wrongdoing by UK forces and will use Sir George's findings to learn lessons to help ensure nothing like this happens again."